The rate of severe mental illness among children and adolescents has dropped substantially in the past generation, researchers reported Wednesday, in an analysis that defies public perceptions of trends in youngsters’ mental health.

The new report, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, comes at a time of fierce debate over the rates and treatment of childhood mental disorders. Critics argue that modern psychiatry is over-diagnosing and treating an increasing number of the worried well or merely quirky.

Child psychiatrists insist that while some children may be given treatments they do not need, the larger problem is that youngsters who could benefit from treatment too often do not get it.


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